Can Nurses Be Sued for Medical Malpractice?

health care

Who can you hold financially responsible if you’re injured because of a medical mistake? Are lawsuits limited to the doctors who are in charge of your care? In California, victims of medical malpractice can file a lawsuit against any medical professional who breaches their duty of care. This includes nurses whose negligence may cause or contribute to your injury.

What is Nursing Malpractice?

Nurses are essential to the healthcare profession. Since nurses are so important for quality patient care, it is also essential that nurses perform their duties without error. Unfortunately, nurses make their fair share of mistakes. Studies show that more nurses are being sued than ever before for nursing malpractice. In fact, a study by the Nurses Service Organization found that $90 million was paid out in nursing malpractice claims over a recent five year period.

Standard of Care in California

In California, a nurse is held to a heightened standard of care. The specific standard of care that each nurse will be held to will depend on the type of nursing care in which they are engaged. When a nurse violates their standard of care they will be considered negligent, and may be liable for a patient’s injuries.

Generally speaking, a nurse will be considered negligent when they “fail to use the level of skill, knowledge, and care in diagnosis and treatment that other reasonably careful nurses [engaged in the same field of practice] would use in similar circumstances.

Whether a nurse is negligent comes down to the question:

Would another nurse, performing under similar circumstances, have acted any differently?

Common Types of Nursing Negligence

According to the American Journal of Nursing, there are five primary reasons nurses may be considered negligent.

1. Failure to follow standards of care.

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing associations, and state licensing boards have developed standards of care that all medical professionals must follow while they’re on the job. Nurses are not exempt from these standards of care that help to ensure the safety and well-being of patients. When nurses deviate from expected standards of care, regulations, and rules, they may be considered negligent

2. Failure to use equipment in a responsible manner.

Nurses are specially trained to understand how and when to use delicate pieces of medical equipment. If a nurse fails to use equipment properly or responsibly, causing an injury to a patient, they may be considered negligent.

3. Failure to assess and monitor and failure to communicate.

A nurse is often charged with monitoring patient vitals and progress, and then reporting any changes to the attending physician. If a nurse fails to watch a patient or register any changes in their health, the patient’s life could be put in serious jeopardy. Many hospitals and doctor’s offices have established protocols to help nurses stay on track with monitoring and communication to avoid these pitfalls.

4. Failure to document.

Documenting and charting are essential nursing functions. Failing to document health issues, medications administered, or allergies can have life-shattering consequences. Nurses must adhere to strict documentation protocols and make sure that all staff are fully informed about relevant patient information.

5. Failure to act as a patient advocate.

Patients interact much more with nurses than they do doctors. This gives nurses important insight and knowledge into each individual patient. If a doctor orders a test, medication, or procedure that may put a patient in harm’s way, a nurse has an obligation to confront the doctor and explain perceived risks. Failure to advocate on behalf of a patient can have deadly consequences.

Damages for Nursing Malpractice Injuries

If a nurse’s lapse in judgment or care has caused you to sustain an injury you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The damages you recover from a San Diego personal injury lawsuit can help to compensate for:

  • Hospitalization
  • Corrective surgery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Transportation and lodging for medical treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress, and
  • Disfigurement.

Experienced San Diego Medical Malpractice Attorneys

At Injury Trial Lawyers, APC, our San Diego medical malpractice attorneys know how devastating a medical malpractice injury can be. We are dedicated to helping injured victims like you hold negligent nurses responsible for their actions and maximizing the compensation you are awarded. Contact us today to request a free consultation and learn more.

Injury Trial Lawyers, APC
1230 Columbia Street, Suite 560
San Diego, CA 92101